Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Peace River—Westlock.
It is a pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-9, which is an act that would create a complaint mechanism for judges. We have certainly heard from all sides today that everyone thinks this is a great idea. This is not to say judges do not do a good job, because we know we have great judges in this country who work hard, but as with any career discipline, there is always the odd thing going on that is not good.
I remember when I was the chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women we talked about some of the things that were happening. In one sexual assault case, a judge actually asked the complainant, “Why couldn’t you just keep your knees together?” In another sexual assault case, another judge said, “she was drunk” in the taxi.
Rona Ambrose brought forward Bill C-337 to try to get at this issue of judges who do not have experience in sexual assault presiding over those cases. Although that bill unfortunately did not make it through under her private member's bill, the government brought it back, and we passed it earlier in the session. This would offer judges training, and in fact, it would offer lawyers who want to be judges training as well. That is the kind of remedy we want to see.
I was very pleased to hear the member for Mount Royal, who just spoke, talk about what this bill would allow. Other than just the extreme option of getting rid of a judge for whatever behaviour was complained about, there is a whole realm of possibilities, including verbal warnings, letter warnings, public apologies, training and multiple other options. This is something very good about this bill.
I do have a concern about the state of judges in our country since the Liberal government was elected. I started in 2015, and at that time we were missing I think 60 judges who needed to be appointed. Because of that, and because the Jordan decision, there were numerous examples of murderers and rapists who went free because there were not enough judges to handle the workload in a timely fashion.
There was an attempt made to put in a process. The government wanted to increase the diversity of the judges being selected, which is great, because one of the things that will make for a healthier democracy and rule of law is to have diverse thought and diverse representation of the population.
Unfortunately, what happened is the government used the Liberal fundraising database to figure out which judges should be picked from the lawyer pool. There were also fundraisers going on with the minister of justice at the time, which caused a big scandal because lawyers were paying $500 to meet her, and they all wanted to become judges. We know that is certainly not in keeping with conflict of interest rules in the House. The scandal went on for quite a while.
It is important to have diversity of thought with judges so they can check one another. If people are all in a group and they think together, it can be a bad thing. We have seen some of the Supreme Court decisions that came out recently that have caused concern across the country, such as the one that says, if a person is intoxicated, it could be a defence for murder, sexual assault, etc. Canadians in general would reject that and say no. The person is the one who chose to keep drinking or doing drugs until they became that intoxicated, and there needs to be an ownership of the behaviour. Those judges all together did not have enough diversity of thought for somebody to say that decision might not be a good thing.
I would suggest, from a Conservative perspective, that when somebody has killed multiple people, consecutive sentencing gave a lot of comfort to victims. The Supreme Court decision on that is another example. Parliament has a duty to review those decisions and have the discussions about whether that is really where we want to go on those topics. The whole purpose of having judges is that they are the executors of the rule of law in our nation.
I am very concerned that, in the last seven years, we are not seeing more rule of law. We are seeing more people committing crimes. The crime rates are increasing, including gun crime and violent crime. However, when I look at the response from the government, it looks like we are seeing a continual erosion of the rule of law.
The member who spoke previously mentioned that I am the first female engineer in the House, and we have an expression in the engineering world about a frog in a pot. Gradually the temperature in the pot increases until eventually we boil the frog, but the frog is not able to sense that the temperature is going up because it is so incremental. I would argue, with respect to the rule of law in Canada, the temperature is going up.
We had Bill C-75, which reduced the sentencing to fines or less than two years of time in jail for crimes such as abduction of a person under the age of 16, abduction of a person under the age of 14, arson for fraudulent purposes, marriage under 16 and participation in the activity of a terrorist group. There are a number of offences there, and I did not see the justification for that. We have heard from police chiefs that, although in some cases they agreed, in many cases there are serious crimes happening that now have only a slap on the wrist, which is not sending the right message about the rule of law and the importance of it.
In this parliamentary session, we now have Bill C-5 coming forward, which would remove mandatory minimums on robbery with a firearm; extortion with a firearm; discharging a firearm with intent; using a firearm in the commission of offences; trafficking or possession for the purpose of trafficking; importing, exporting, or possession of serious drugs; and production of these serious drugs, which are killing thousands of Canadians. Also, Bill C-5 would allow some of these sentences to be put down to house arrest, including that of sexual assault.
Somebody could victimize someone in their community and then serve the time there. I do not think that is something that we should leave to the discretion of judges, when we have seen in the past a judge ask, “couldn't you just keep your knees together?” There is a naivete if we think we can leave it to chance. Yes, in the majority of cases, judges will judge with wisdom, but it is the every now and again that we want to prevent and what our laws should prevent.
Abduction of a person under 14 could become a house arrest sentence. This is unbelievable. We have a huge human trafficking issue in this country, and this not only sends the wrong message, but it is also not going to fix things because, when people are left with a potential house arrest, those who are committing crimes can commit them out of their house. It is the same thing for someone trafficking drugs who gets house arrest. How convenient is that for people to stop by and pick up drugs?
These things make no sense to me, and so I am very concerned when I look at the erosion of our rule of law. At the same time, there is an erosion of protection for victims. We had Bill C-28 in the previous Parliament on victim surcharge. It used to be that there was some recompense made for victims who had suffered and had to travel distances to go to parole hearings and that kind of thing, but that was taken away.
This is a soft-on-crime government, and while I support Bill C-9 because when judges do not get it right we need to fix that, but I am very concerned that we are having this continual erosion of the rule of law. We have heard many speeches in the House that have said that there is a high rate of reoffending. People are committing crimes, getting out, committing them again and being put back in, and there really is no rehabilitation happening. That is not to say that there should not be, but the situation today is that there is not. If we know that people are going to reoffend and go out on the street, we have to protect the public, and we have a duty to do that.
The mechanism in the bill is to make sure that judges are doing their due diligence. We would have mechanisms, not just an extreme one, but progressions, that would allow us to take corrective action and manage the judicial system to ensure its integrity. This will preserve the rule of law, although the concerns I have expressed do remain.